Everything You Need to Know About Skin Cancer

When addressed promptly, skin cancer is not fatal. But what are the signs you should be watching out for? Keep reading to know.

By URLife Team
25 Apr 2024

The mere thought of cancer often instils fear and concern, with many assuming a diagnosis equates to a life-threatening situation. However, this doesn’t stand true for most types of cancer. In most cases cancer can be treated with timely intervention.

Skin cancer is a condition that occurs when abnormal growths of skin cells develop due to exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation. There are different types, including basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, melanoma, and rarer forms like Merkel cell carcinoma. While preventable through sun protection measures, such as sunscreen use and minimising UV exposure, skin cancer remains a significant health concern if individuals are not aware of early signs and skin cancer and not addressed timely.

While skin cancer incidence in India is comparatively lower than in Western countries, comprising less than 1 per cent of all cancer diagnoses, the importance of prevention remains paramount regardless of prevalence.


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A 2024 report published in The Lancet suggests that prevention of skin cancer can be initiated in childhood itself. "It is the childhood period that plays a pivotal role in the deceptively invisible process of sun exposure. Sun exposure during the early stages of life has a more significant impact on the likelihood of developing skin cancer during adulthood, compared to sun exposure in later years," says the report. 

Another report published by the name, "The Surgeon General's Call to Action to Prevent Skin Cancer," states that to make skin cancer prevention a reality, one needs to increase opportunities for sun protection in outdoor settings and reduce harms from indoor tanning. However, indoor tanning may not be completely applicable to Indian settings and is more suitable for Western nations. Yet, experts agree that childhood sunburn is strongly associated with an increased risk of melanoma during later stages of life. There is thus a pressing need to promote the prevention of harmful ultraviolet exposure through good habits sowed early in life, which are further sustained throughout adulthood for optimal risk reduction.

Also, given that skin cancer is developed over a period of many years of exposure to UV rays, 'there is no known possibility of secondary prevention efforts through adult skin cancer screening, and hence, effective primary prevention during childhood is key to mitigating risk,' says the Lancet report. 


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Skin cancer is uncommon in India. However with the changing scenarios, reports and studies state otherwise.

According to a report published by Journal of Clinical & Diagnostic Research, skin cancer is increasingly being diagnosed in the Indian population, despite the protective effects of eumelanin in dark skin. Eumelanin is a pigment responsible for the brown and black coloration in human skin, hair, and eyes. It provides protection against the harmful effects of ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun by absorbing and scattering UV rays. 

The researchers conducted a retrospective study to analyse the profile of skin cancer patients who attended the institution over one year, from December 1, 2013, to November 30, 2014. The aim was to identify possible risk factors and environmental factors associated with the high prevalence of skin cancer in the region.

Out of the 2,638 registered cancer patients, skin cancer constituted 3.18 per cent (84 patients). The age of the patients ranged from 27 to 92 years. The most common histological type of skin cancer was basal cell carcinoma (BCC), followed by squamous cell carcinoma and malignant melanoma. The majority of the patients, almost 90 per cent, were from rural areas of Punjab. Furthermore, 92 per cent of the patients were directly involved in agriculture and had a history of prolonged exposure to sunlight.


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Causes of Skin Cancer

Excessive UV exposure

Prolonged exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or tanning beds is a primary risk factor for skin cancer development. UV rays damage the DNA in skin cells, increasing the likelihood of cancerous mutations.


Family History 

Individuals with a family history of skin cancer, especially melanoma, are at higher risk of developing the disease themselves. Genetic predispositions can contribute to an increased susceptibility to skin cancer.


Personal Health History 

Also, those who have previously been diagnosed with skin cancer are at greater risk of developing additional skin cancers in the future. Regular skin examinations and vigilant monitoring are essential for early detection and management.

Dr. SVSS Prasad, medical oncologist of Apollo Hospitals, Jubilee Hills, Hyderabad shared in his YouTube video the most common causes of developing skin cancer. He says that “radiation of certain wavelengths called ionising radiation, has enough energy to damage DNA of skin”.
Apart from this, he also mentioned that “when someone is going through transplant and taking medications, immunosuppressant drugs for the same can also lead to this condition because of a compromised immune system.”

He also adds that “melanoma is the most severe type of skin cancer that develops in the cells that produce melanin. It’s mostly seen in western population with fair skin but it can also occur in Indian brown skin or African dark coloured skin.
People with light skin are at a greater risk of developing melanoma than people with naturally dark skin.


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Warning Signs of Skin Cancer 

Any new or changing spots on your skin that persist for two weeks or more should be brought to your doctor’s attention. This doesn’t mean that any new mole or growth is cancerous but it is advisable to be vigilant about the same. Skin cancer often has no symptoms in its early stages, though symptoms can appear at any point.

Basal Cell Carcinoma 

Basal cell carcinoma typically manifests on sun-exposed areas such as the face, neck, arms, legs, ears, and hands, though it can occur elsewhere. Recognizable signs of basal cell carcinoma encompass:

  • Presence of a pearly or waxy bump on the skin.
  • Development of a flat, rough, or scar-like patch on the skin.
  • Occurrence of a sore that either bleeds, fails to fully heal, or reoccurs.
  • Appearance of a shiny, translucent, or flesh-coloured bump.
  • Formation of a pink growth with slightly raised, rolled edges and a crusted centre.


Squamous Cell Carcinoma 

  • Persistent, firm, red nodules on the skin.
  • Flat, reddish or brownish patches on the skin.
  • Rough, scaly, or crusty skin lesions that may bleed or ulcerate.
  • Slow-growing or rapidly enlarging growths on the skin, often with raised edges.
  • Thickening of the skin, particularly in areas exposed to the sun for extended periods.



Melanoma can occur anywhere on the body and may develop out of existing moles. In people with darker skin tones, melanoma tends to occur on the palms or soles of the feet. Signs of melanoma include:

  • Change in the appearance of a mole
  • Development of a large brown spot, often with irregular edges
  • Bleeding mole
  • Evolution of a mole or skin lesion, such as itching, tenderness, or pain.
  • Uneven colouring within a mole or lesion, including shades of black, brown, blue, white, or red.
  • Enlargement of an existing mole or the development of a new pigmented spot.
  • Dark lesions on the mucous membranes (nose, mouth, vagina, or anus) or the fingers and toes


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Regular health checks are essential for everyone, but they are particularly important for individuals who are at risk of or already have skin issues. Taking regular health checks can help detect the condition at an early stage when it is easier to manage and treat. With the UR.Life HRA, we help you to invest in your well-being through seamless interventions and targeted medical treatments. Our holistic wellness approach caters to all aspects of your well-being. We ensure that you can bring your whole self to work.
With our medical professionals by your side, routine health check-ups will never be an issue. Advanced laboratory technologies back UR.Life’s Occupational Health Centers (OHC), and with highly qualified experts/technicians, we’re committed to delivering trusted and quality recommendations, modifications and advice to you.


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